On Tuesday, June 28, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation co-hosted a special session as part of Design Week at North Commons Park, bringing together for the first time several agencies and community leaders to consider the broader impacts planned park improvements could make for North Minneapolis.
Reimagining the Civic Commons (RCC) is a national initiative to advance ambitious social, economic, and environmental goals through revitalized and connected public spaces. Through its now-12 cohort cities, RCC seeks to use strategic investments in civic spaces, including parks, to connect people of all backgrounds, cultivate trust, and create more resilient communities.
As the convener of RCC in Minneapolis, the Parks Foundation is working with community partners to use RCC as one of the tools to reimagine North Commons at the center of a vital Northside community.
One of the primary tenants of RCC is collaboration and cross-sector engagement. This diverse gathering of community and government and nonprofit organizations included NEON, NRRC, Metropolitan Council, UROC, YMCA, City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, EJCC, Seeds to Harvest, North Commons Recreation Center staff, MPRB planning and community engagement staff, Seeds to Harvest, the Parks Foundation, and the North Commons design team.
The session started with a presentation by Bridget Marquis, the national director of RCC, that provided background on RCC and its focus on creating trust and challenging racism and inequality. Marquis was followed up by a presentation by Alexa Bush from Detroit, one of RCC’s original model cities. Bush presented Detroit’s multi-agency work in the Fitzgerald neighborhood, which included an interlinked park and commercial corridor revitalization very similar to the relationship between West Broadway and North Commons.
A lively discussion among the participants and Alexa Bush explored the themes of community engagement, power, and building Black wealth. An especially poignant moment was when a participant stated that in Minneapolis, we do not talk about building Black wealth and how freeing it was to be able to state that goal without trepidation.
For many in the room, they grasped immediately the transformational idea of focusing on community outcomes as we invest in public and civic spaces.
North Commons can be more than a green space. It can be a catalyst for social and economic change in North Minneapolis. It can build trust and connect people. It can generate vital outcomes as Minneapolis is still grappling with the impacts from the murder of George Floyd, the pandemic, and the ongoing realities of racism. As the North Commons design team develops the initial project concepts, RCC provides a foundation for the work to extends to social and economic outcomes beyond physical park improvements.
The RCC session was a great success. Not only did it introduce the concepts of RCC to a broad spectrum of people and organizations, but it also emphasized this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reimagine the park as an essential element for generational healing, health, and wealth-creation in North Minneapolis.